New UK Study Builds on Growing Body of Evidence for Mood-Boosting Effects of Wild Blueberries on Children and Young Adults

April 2, 2020

ORONO, Maine,  CAMBRIDGE, England— April 2, 2020 — A new study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, adds to the growing body of research linking consumption of wild blueberries to benefits in the mood of adolescents. The study, led by Professor Claire Williams from the School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, UK, builds upon the group’s earlier research on wild blueberry’s beneficial effects on mood and depression in children and young adults. The team’s findings add to an emerging area in nutrition and psychology research, examining the potential for some foods and dietary components to have a positive impact on mood and a reduction of depression symptoms. The interaction between diet and mood is a new and exciting area of science which has not yet been widely explored.

“This is an exciting finding that underscores the potential for wild blueberries to make a difference to people with depression,” said Claire Williams, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Reading. “Here we showed that four weeks of a daily wild blueberry intervention reduced depression symptoms in a community of adolescents. More extensive studies are clearly required to replicate and extend these findings, not only in healthy participants, but also in clinically referred samples, to assess the potential for use of deeply colored berries as a practical and cost-effective intervention.”

Study Overview

The study, entitled “Effect of 4 weeks daily wild blueberry supplementation on symptoms

of depression in adolescents furthers Williams’ research to address a major social problem: depression in young adults. It is well known that older children and teenagers undergo a vulnerable period in their cognitive and emotional development, which requires special attention and would benefit from additional research.

The study tested the hypothesis that there is an association between the intake of anthocyanin-rich wild blueberries and mood. In this study, children between the ages of 11 and 17 were split into two groups; one group consumed wild blueberries and the other group consumed a placebo. After four weeks of daily consumption the researchers administered rigorous questionnaires where the young participants provided a self-assessment of certain mood parameters.

Based on the self-report questionnaires, the young study participants who consumed wild blueberries documented a beneficial effect on their mood and reported less depression symptoms, compared to the placebo group. The results also showed, that children and teenagers do not consume the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables.

These findings were broadly consistent with other research, including that of the Williams’ team, showing that consuming whole, healthy foods (like wild blueberries) can benefit the brain and behavior. The findings also support evidence obtained from population studies where greater consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of depression. Overall, this study accompanies 20 years of research, which connects better overall health with the consumption of wild blueberries.

Anthocyanins and Other Flavonoids Affect Cognitive Function

Anthocyanins and other food flavonoids are being investigated for their various health benefits. Anthocyanin flavonoids are the pigments responsible for the purple, blue, red hues of some berries. Anthocyanins are extremely abundant in wild blueberries which is easily seen by the berry’s deep pigmentation. Anthocyanins have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as other health effects which have been demonstrated using several experimental approaches. Results suggest that, in the brain, anthocyanins provide benefits by:

  • Improving cerebral blood flow
  • Regulating glucose delivery to the brain
  • Reducing inflammation and oxidative stress to brain neurons
  • Improving the function of neurons in transmitting signals in the brain

Comments from the Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA)

“Although food and mood research is still an emerging area of study, each bit of research that comes out gets us a little further and guides researchers to the next area of study,” said Kitty Broihier, MS, RD, Nutrition Advisor for the Wild Blueberry Association of North America. “The connection between wild blueberries and mood is a novel area of exploration, and Professor Williams’ team’s work on mood and behavior in children and teens is encouraging. Until more is known about the impact of food on mental health, parents can feel good about helping their children establish healthy eating habits to support cognitive development and wellbeing throughout life, such as eating plenty of colorful plant-based foods, like Wild Blueberries, each day.”

With a growing body of research on wild blueberries and cognitive function in young people that has been published by Williams and team, interest in possible links between food and mental health will undoubtedly gain momentum in the science community. Two related studies by Williams and team are referenced in these releases:

 

About WBANA 

The Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA) is a trade association of growers and processors of Wild Blueberries from Maine and Canada who are dedicated to bringing the Wild Blueberry health story and unique Wild Advantages to consumers and the trade worldwide. WBANA is dedicated to furthering research that explores the health potential of Wild Blueberries. For twenty years WBANA has hosted the Health Research Summit in Bar Harbor, a worldwide gathering of renowned scientists and researchers whose work is leading the way to learn more about the health benefits of Wild Blueberries. Their findings are documented in a growing number of published studies on the potential health and disease-fighting benefits of Wild Blueberries. For news, recipes, and related health information about Wild Blueberries, visit www.wildblueberries.com. For the latest updates, read our blog. Visit us on Facebook or on Twitter.